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PA-Sen: Harper Poll: Sestak 33% McGinty 28% Fetterman 11%

SestakJoe Sestak is in line for another shot at Pat Toomey, though more than a quarter of PA Democrats still haven’t picked a candidate, according to the latest Harper Poll.

Sestak’s lead has been cut in half since September, but the 2010 Democratic Senate candidate still holds a five-point lead over his nearest challenger, Katie McGinty.

McGinty, former chief of staff for Gov. Tom Wolf, garnered 28% support, putting her in a tie for second with “Undecided.”

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman picked up 11% in the poll, but draws his strongest support from several key demographics, including voters aged 18-39 (16%), “very liberal” voters (14%) and the Pittsburgh/Southwest region (19%).

Interestingly, Fetterman comes in second to Sestak among voters with a very favorable opinion of tattoos, the poll shows.

Sestak has the best name recognition of the three Democrats – having served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives – though Fetterman faces an uphill battle over the next three months, with 53% of voters unaware of who he is.

Harper Polling surveyed 640 likely Democratic primary voters through landline interviews conducted using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The poll took place between on January 22nd and 23rd. The margin of error is +/- 3.81%.

39 Responses

  1. everything coming out of your mouth… your argument is longer than the damn article

  2. Sestak was not blowing smoke when he referred to a “political vendetta” against him. The PA Democratic leadership and President Obama can’t stand him because in 2010 he ran in the primary against R-turned-D Senate incumbent Arlen Specter. Sestak won the primary but lost the election to Toomey by 2%.

  3. I head all three candidates speak recently at a 14th Ward Independent Club meeting in Pittsburgh. I like Sestak and voted for him last time, but I thought the other two candiates preented better. He referenced his military background when it was totally unreesponsive to the moderators’ questions. He often failed to supply context for his answers, making his responses virtually unintelligible. He referred vaguely to political vendettas against him, which struck me as inappropriate. He was unfocused. McGinty, by contrast, impressed. She comes across as a the hard-working daughter of a blue collar family. She has energy. She is poised. And she convinced me she is electable. Fetterman is a delight to listen to but I do not think he can win and I feel the Admiral’s day has passed. All three are liberal, right on the issues, so the question is which one of them has the best chance to take Toomey down. I did not vote for McGinty when she ran for governor in the primary, but after seeing her up close and personal I think she is the real deal.

  4. Jerry Policoff-

    You pulled 2/3 cellphone stat out of your ass. I linked to a recent study. 2/3 is only true for a young demographic, not everyone.

    Glad you admit that you misread LancDem.

    The landline people are more likely to vote than the cellphone crowd. But, there is not a vast disconnect between landline only vs cellphone only vs people with both.

    It’s not like Joe is going to be 20 points ahead with landline voters and 10 points behind with cellphone users.

    The polls are pretty consistent: no one is f*cking paying attention to this race yet.

    No on is going to pay any attention until there are ads on TV and radio.

    Joe has some slight name recognition advantage, that will evaporate once the other candidates get on the air.

  5. Just as a postscript to my previous post, there are two kinds of error in sampling. One is statistical error which is determined by such things as the size of ths sample and how closely the sample matches up to the various demographics such as age, sex, geography, et al. This can be addressed to some degree by weighting the sample to more closely match the universes. So when Harper claims a 3.8% margin of error they are referring to the statistical probability that there is a 95% chance that the true number is + or – 3.8 points versus the number forecast by the poll.
    Then there is sampling error which occurs when the sample misses or seriously under-represents some segments of the population. Sampling error cannot be estimated since there is nothing to weight. The most famous example of this was the famous Chicago poll that trumpeted “Dewey Wins.” That poll was based on a telephone sample at a time when a statistically significant percentage of the population still did not have a phone. It just so happens that those homes were much more Democratic and more unionized than the population as a whole, and those people simply were left out of the sample. A much larger percentage of the population today use cell phones only, and a significant percentage of homes with both cell phones and land lines are predominantly cell phone users. This is all probably way over David Diano’s head, but you can’t exclude cell phone users from a poll sample and claim to have a valid poll. The margin of error assumes that you have a representative sample frame. Harper does not have a representative sample frame. And by the way neither Does F&M’s Keystone poll, nor the Lorus poll which gives Hillary Clinton a huge lead over Bernie Sanders in Iowa, but which determines who likely voters are by mostly including only voters who voted in 2012 and 2014. Other polls project a large turnout of first time voters this year in Iowa, and they overwhelmingly favor Sanders.

  6. How does one reply to David Diano???

    He writes that cell phone pnly households only represent 47% of US. households. The fact is that exact percentages are very hard to come by, and the ones David came up with are among the lowest estimates. Does it really matter? Is David suggesting that elimination 47% of the population from being sampled in a poll is acceptable. I would be happy to accept David’s numbers for the sake of argument. it does not change the fact that a poll that excludes 53% of the population from the sample is absurd and cannot be taken seriously.

    On Sestak/McGinty David claims I did not read LancDem carefully enough. Okay. I have a hard time taking such rants seriously. The fact is that our Mayor made an impassioned plea for the delegates to endorse McGinty, and he was rebuffed by the delagates who awarded a majority of their votes to Sestak. I know Mayor Grey, and I like him, but he is very much a part of the Democratic Establishment. He supported Barack Obama in 2008 but Hillary Clinton won here. I am pretty sure he supported Specter as well, but Sestak won. Mayor Grey is a popular mayor, but I don’t think his endorsements mean squat when it comes to how Democrats vote here. By the way, he also endorsed me in 2010 when I ran for the Pa. House, but I lost in the general election.

    David also derides the fact that I reject the poll because I am a “Sestak leming.” Uh, that poll has Sestak on top, David. No, I reject it because I know that any poll that refuses to spend the bucks necessary to sample cell phone users is not worth the paper it is printed on. If it said Sestak was ahead by 20 points I would still reject it. Methodology matters.

  7. Just wondering if McGinty has done any HARD WORK yet–visiting a couple diners/photo ops–how’d that go? Joe has put in hard work and gone to ALL 67 counties countless times. He knows the people in the state. And, people know a real candidate (Sestak) versus a public relations/political advertisement candidate sitting in some remote corporate office somewhere. I agree with Jerry Policoff–I don’t totally agree with all of Sestak’s positions, even less with McGinty’s, but because I detest the Democratic BOSSES telling us who to vote for, I am even more supportive of Joe Sestak. And as Policoff notes, my area is also for Sestak and Bernie overwhelmingly! So, Jerry Policoff’s analysis of the Harper poll seems exceptionally credible!

  8. Senator Rutherford B. Cattywampus-

    “He needs to stop acting like a weirdo and telling bizarre stories at campaign events”

    The only way for him to do that is not to show up. Sestak is nuttier than squirrel poop.

  9. Jerry-

    I guess you have something else in common with Sestak: you like to just make up numbers. From December: “New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Tuesday found 47 percent of homes only use cellphones and do not have a landline phone.”

    NOT your “about two-thirds of all telephone households are cell-phone only” that you pulled out of your hindquarters.

    Also, you ERRONEOUSLY wrote: “Now to respond to David Diano and LancasterDem: The latter failed to mention that none of the contested races produced the two-thirds super majority necessary for an endorsement”

    But, LancDem wrote: “Lancaster County voted to endorse in this years senate primary tonight, but no candidate got the 2/3rds needed. In fact, Sestak and McGinty nearly split the vote 50-50.”
    and “Sestak did NOT get the endorsement in Lancaster County. No candidate got an endorsement tonight from Lancaster County Democrats, because no candidate got 2/3rds needed.”

    So, Jerry, please learn how to read. Helpful tip: it is easier to read if you take your head out of your ass.
    Your opening statement: “I reject it totally without even having read it yet” is typical of Sestak lemmings.

    Also, Joe lives in Virginia, not Pennsylvania.


    Fetterman comes off as honest/sincere. He does need some work to punch up his speaking. He has to find a happy medium between delivering his political arguments, but not sounding like a politician.

    As for 2010, I have to disagree. Sestak turned down help from people who weren’t loyal (ie on-his-side) in the primary. Sestak is the one who refused to participate in a coordinated campaign, not the other way around.

    Rachel Carson-
    EXACTLY. Also, once Joe was elected to congress, he voted for Bush’s Iraq funding, while stating it wasn’t viable without timetables. Sestak is a total hypocrite.

    All true.

    contactsport –

    Joe lost his endorsement from the nurse’s union because he didn’t show up. Though you are right about Sestak showing up at other events, it’s because he has nothing else to do with his time, and more often than not, shows up uninvited at events. Sestak’s all about using people and taking them for granted.

    “Chester County is all in for Sestak” ??? Really? He and McGinty each got nearly 50/50 percent of the vote. That doesn’t sound like “all in” to me.

    You are right about:
    “Wolf has not even shown up at State Committee to thank us for helping him to get elected.”

    He’s been a complete prick about that. However, I’ve seen Sestak show up at only two State Committee events in that same time period. It was the September event in Gettysburg, and Sestak just popped in for an hour or so Saturday morning (dressed like a hobo). And, last Feb in Allentown briefly for an early evening party. Joe never sticks around.

  10. There’s a lot of revisionist history in these posts.

    Sestak is disliked by everyone who knows him more than superficially. VoteVets pulled away from him on their own, not at the behest of the DSCC. Sestak is responsible for his own defeat in 2010 because he refused support from anyone who was connected to the Party. He needs to stop acting like a weirdo and telling bizarre stories at campaign events.

    And OMG…Policoff supporting the concept of the Party endorsing. Stop the planet, I want to get off.

  11. McGinty has no political experience. And someone asked why she didn’t do better in the endorsement process in Chester County. That is because she never shows up in Chester County. Despite what Dave Diano says about Sestak, our experience is that he has shown up every time we asked him to and helped all our candidates. McGinty and Fresh Start were a sham and did nothing to help our State House candidates, leading to the lack of Democrats in the House and a budget impasse for Wolf. Wolf has not even shown up at State Committee to thank us for helping him to get elected. Sestak traveled the state to every county party to thank them for their help. That is why Sestak has the grassroots on the ground support, as Jerry Policoff has indicated. Chester County is all in for Sestak and will work our butts off to help him. But the DSCC is really trying hard to defeat Sestak-they have pulled resources away from him, including VoteVets, so those supporting Sestak should NOT give to VoteVets if you want your money to go to Sestak-they are not giving him money!!! Pressure from the top will hurt Sestak but lack of support on the ground for McGinty will not get her over the top, so they need to decide for Sestak or we will lose this seat again.

  12. It is worth noting that the Leadership of Pa. State Democrats wants to pass on making any endorsement for Senate this year. Many people I know interpret this as a sign that they don’t have the votes to secure a McGinty endorsement. There is pushback to demand that the snow-canceled State Committee meeting be re-scheduled (which the rules apparently require) so the will of the Leadership can be rejected and a vote held. I personally don’t think there should be any endorsements for any race prior to the primary, but as long as the policy of endorsing candidates continues the Senate race should not be arbitrarily excluded. What are they afraid of? I like Sestak for a lot of reasons even though we don’t agree on all the issues. Furthermore I think he did a great job in Congress working for his constituents. I know of cases where he did that for people in need of help who did not live in his district. Finally, I would support him if I knew nothing about him if only because the corrupt Democratic Leadership hates him so much.

  13. Joe Sestak is a nice man to talk to. I have enjoyed conversation with Joe in the past. Saying that Sestak will never be elected to the Senate. Joe has alienated himself with the President,Senate Campaign Committee, and the Governor of Pennsylvania . Outsiders seem to be in vogue these days but Joe was an insider in the Democratic Party. His strange antics and no support for helping anyone else burned those bridges a long time ago. In the last two election cycles for Governor and Judges Sestak was always showing up at the candidates events. More then one of those candidates where not happy with him. He didn’t help them . It was all about Joe. With Toomey having the Koch Brothers,Heritage and Growth money at his disposal ,Sestak will never be able to compete with him. Then in the days of campaign trackers I can see a picture of an empty house in the Philidelphia suburbs “Saying Where Does Joe Live”. Which denotes you can be a Pennsylvania Democratic outsider when you live in Virginia. McGinty and Fetterman would have a better chance in the fall. Fetter man’s lack of money hurts him. McGinty maybe not the perfect candidate but a known name who can raise money and political experience seems to be the best choice to beat Toomey in the fall.

  14. eagleswing, I’ve heard Sestak and Fetterman both speak. It’s clear you haven’t… anyone who has heard Fetterman speak knows it’s not with “fury.” Liar.

    Sestak on the other hand speaks like a weird story teller who thinks he’s engaging with his changing tone and inflection, but it’s a complete snorefest and just plain strange.

    Q: “What’s your favorite color, Joe?”
    A: “Aircraft carrier.”

    Q: “What’s do you think of the problems facing middleclass families?”
    A: “Aircraft carrier.”

    Yes, Joe’s resume of destroying Iraq in a war he admittedly knew was a mistake is MOST impressive. Sorry, but Joe was complicit at a very high level in a war he knew was unjust… I’ll pass.

  15. and by the way– blame Sestak’s 2010 loss on the vindictive big gun dem party bosses like Rendell and his cronies , who refused to support Sestak after he ran against –and beat — their turncoat republican-turned- dem specter. let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson, since it cost them the US Senate seat held by Toomey. way to go, party bosses! refuse to support Sestak to spite Sestak for refusing to drop out in favor of turncoat Specter, then lose the whole match to Toomey.. Blame DsCC and Rendellians for that huge mistake.

  16. “McGinty is unpopular because of how Wolf tried to big-foot her in, then Wolf acted like an asshole when the committee rejected her. Putting her on “fresh start” just worsened the feeling with state committee…” i totally agree. but it’s not just the state dem committee members who dislike her. the rank and file are sick of being told who to vote for, on theoretical pain of their losing their jobs, or their party bosses losing discretionary state money for pet projects. that’s why the primary is a secret ballot…

    as to fetterman– once one hears him speak (full of sound and fury, but without an original thought or plan on how to solve national problems) he is by far the weakest US Sen candidate i have ever been so unfortunate as to see.

  17. Despite the fact that this poll shows my friend Joe Sestak on top, I reject it totally without even having read it yet. Any poll that only samples land lines is worthless. Cell phone penetration is now around 90%, and about two-thirds of all telephone households are cell-phone only. Pollsters who only survey landlines know they are perpetrating a fraud, but they can’t afford to buy a cell-phone sample. If they can’t do it right they should get out of the polling business.

    Now to respond to David Diano and LancasterDem: The latter failed to mention that none of the contested races produced the two-thirds super majority necessary for an endorsement. Diano claims Lancaster Democrats hate Sestak, but I was there last night, and Sestak (who showed up while McGinty did not) was very warmly received with nary a boo. Sestak got the most votes despite Mayor Grey’s emotional plea to the assembled delegates to support McGinty.
    I have said before that Joe Sestak is very popular in Lancaster, and I think the greeting and votes he received last night is evidence of that. I dare say that the two buttons most in evidence last night were for Bernie Sanders and Joe Sestak. Several officers and Executive Committee members of the Lancaster County Democratic Committee openly support both Sestak and Sanders.

  18. PA Ex – Silver’s rating was published in 2014 and is based on a grand total of two polls. He gives Harper a C+ rating.

  19. Fetterman would probably be a better candidate than either Sestak or McGinty. Whether Fetterman harnesses some of that Bernie Mo is one of this race’s bigger unknowns.

    I do believe a landline-only poll understates Fetterman’s support, but he’s almost certainly in 3rd at this point of the race. He’ll play well with alot of the primary electorate, but he needs to get better known outside of his youthful Southwestern base.

    Re: the polls alleged partisan tilt, Nate Silver actually has Harper with a slight D+0.1 bias based upon historical data. Thats national, of course. Not sure what that number would be in PA…

  20. @DD-

    Sestak did NOT get the endorsement in Lancaster County. No candidate got an endorsement tonight from Lancaster County Democrats, because no candidate got 2/3rds needed.

    Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray is supporting Katie McGinty and will deliver the county on primary day.

    Oh and by the way… Chester County Democrats have a terrible track record for endorsements. They endorsed Rob McCord last year in the gubernatorial primary. How’d that work out?

  21. LancDem-

    Sestak’s stooge, JakeSternberger, tweeted this misleading tidbit:

    “Joe Sestak gets 54% of the vote in Lancaster County endorsement”

    This would lead viewers to believe erroneously that he had gotten the endorsement.

  22. Lancaster County Democrats held their convention tonight and they did NOT endorse in the US Senate primary, HOWEVER the popular 3-term incumbent Mayor of Lancaster, Rick Gray (D), has endorsed Katie McGinty, along with other mayors across Pennsylvania.

    ***This is particularly noteworthy, because Lancaster Co. Democrats endorsed Sestak over Specter in 2010. But not this time… Lancaster County voted to endorse in this years senate primary tonight, but no candidate got the 2/3rds needed. In fact, Sestak and McGinty nearly split the vote 50-50.

    However with Mayor Gray’s support, the most senior elected Democrat in the county, McGinty has a good shot at winning this county in the primary. Gray will deliver the highest registered Dem. precincts which are in the city. Gray also supported Wolf in last years gubernatorial primary.

  23. Lancaster County Democrats held their convention tonight and they did NOT endorse in the US Senate primary, HOWEVER the popular 3-term incumbent Mayor of Lancaster, Rick Gray (D), has endorsed Katie McGinty, along with other mayors across Pennsylvania.

  24. McGinty’s revolving door to $$$-

    The candidates who say endorsements don’t matter, are the ones who can’t get endorsed.

    Sestak and McGinty are both as popular at State Committee as a case of herpes at state committee. Sestak’s not popular because he’s a well-known fraud who screwed everybody over in 2010 and doesn’t “help” unless he can use people.

    McGinty is unpopular because of how Wolf tried to big-foot her in, then Wolf acted like an asshole when the committee rejected her. Putting her on “fresh start” just worsened the feeling with state committee. I’m sure that part of Marcel’s “mission” as chairman it to rehabilitate her image from the chair fight with Burn.

    So, it’s hard to say how the state committee would vote, give the animosity toward both of these candidates.

  25. Sestak would do quite well in a bunch of counties that aren’t controlled by “bosses.” As well, he’d do fine and likely much better than this opponent if a vote were taken at state committee. But you and I know why no such vote will be allowed. Some counties do not endorse, of course. In the end, endorsements seem not to be of much value considering the track record. In my area Sestak is the overwhelming choice. Not even close for the opponents. Time will tell.

  26. “Sestak always finds a way to win”… except in 2010 when he didn’t.

    And, he didn’t bother trying to take back the 7th district after the gerrymander, because he’d probably lose that too.

    What’s Sestak’s “winning strategy” this time?
    1) Have no campaign manager
    2) Walk aimlessly around the state dressed like a hobo
    3) Get no union endorsements, and lose the ones you had
    4) Raise less money than your main opponent
    5) Live in another state

    I heard that Sestak did get the Chester County endorsement tonight. That is pretty surprising since McGinty is from Chester, and not Virginia. Unfortunately, McGinty didn’t show up at the meeting. (I don’t know why.) This probably hurt her in the vote, though I can’t say it was the deciding factor.

    Tomorrow night is Montco endorsement. Let’s see how that goes.

  27. McGinty can’t beat Toomey. Only Sestak can beat Toomey. Sestak always finds a way to win, and he’s on his way to winning. McGinty is out of her league. And wait till the $1.1 million she got from the gas industry, the$120,000 campaign contribution from the company leader whose dirty coal plant she tried to fast-track, comes out etc, etc. When this comes out, figure it out. All this info has been posted here at PoliticsPA and at SteelImpact, among others by the many posters here over the months. Thanks for posting, I learned a lot from these sources. Republicans already indicated they are going to use the revolving door story.

  28. Before I get to the poll: Did anyone notice that Sestak was the only one not to post a snow/blizzard picture? Who thinks it was because he was stuck in Virginia with his family and couldn’t post a PA picture?

    Okay… back to the poll…

    ** Sestak’s lead has been cut in half since September ***

    That’s 4 months ago with Sestak campaigning hard, and McGinty quietly raising a lot of money and getting ALL the union endorsements.

    This is also before any ground game has begun with Petitions and such and no ads.

    — How did Sestak lose half his lead in only 4 months?
    — What’s going to happen in the next 3 months when McGinty actually campaigns and has ads on TV and pulls in more endorsements?
    — What happens when Fetterman’s name ID picks up?

    The landline polls certainly skews against Fetterman who is going to do better with younger/hipper voters.

    Montco PA Dem-

    Actually, I wasn’t going to comment on Harper’s R-ness and the GOP desire to run against Sestak. The mere change of a 10 point lead dropping in half (by the same pollster) before McGinty has gone on TV says all you need to know about how soft Sestak’s support is. It’s going to get worse for Sestak once McGinty gets on the air.

    And, it will be all over when Sestak’s dirty secret comes out.


    Sorry for the delay in posting. It’s the end of the month, and I’m in charge of generating the data for 1099 forms to go out, so I’ve been swamped.

  29. So before Diano jumps on to say this, let me beat him to the punch: Harper is going to show you the world as Repubs want it to be. Based on this, it’s pretty obvious that they feel Sestak is a weaker candidate than McGinty.

    David, the floor is yours…

  30. Harper is nearly always wrong…:

    “Most recently, a Harper poll shows Gov. Tom Corbett within striking distance..”

    …and it’s completely biased:

    “The organization was founded after the 2012 presidential election, with the goal of giving Republicans high-volume, inexpensive “robo-polling….Brock McCleary is the founder and President of Harper Polling. He was the polling director and deputy executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2012 cycle. After college, during which he was elected chairman of the Pennsylvania College Republicans, he spent a year and a half with the Republican consulting firm Revolution Agency, where he focused on challenging the party’s status quo with outsider candidates…After a stint as communications director for Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), McCleary joined the NRCC in late 2009.”

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